The UN General Assembly passed a declaration on the human rights of the world’s indigenous people. Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States rejected the document, stating it went too far in giving indigenous peoples ownership of their traditional lands and veto rights over national legislation and local management of resources. The declaration, which had been debated for 30 years, is nonbinding. Voting in favor were 143 nations, and 11 countries abstained.
(derived from the New York Times)
Official reaction of the Assembly of First Nations in Canada:
AFN Press Release …
AFN National Chief Applauds Today’s Passage of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – Recognizing 30 Years of Work in the Making
OTTAWA, Sept. 13 – The National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations called today an important day for Indigenous people around the world, including First Nations in Canada.
“While the Declaration is not perfect, it is a step toward setting minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of Indigenous people everywhere. It’s a day to celebrate.
“This recognition was a long time coming,” National Chief Phil Fontaine said. “The Declaration recognizes our collective histories, traditions, cultures, languages, and spirituality. It is an important international instrument that supports the activities and efforts of Indigenous peoples to have their rights fully recognized, respected and implemented by state governments.”
However, the National Chief said he is gravely concerned that the Government of Canada chose to vote against the UN Declaration and, in effect, opposes fundamental human rights protections for Indigenous peoples. Canada lobbied hard to convince other countries to not support the Declaration. It is the first time Canada voted against an international human rights instrument. Despite Canada’s efforts, many countries decided to vote in favour of the United Nations Declaration.
“The Assembly of First Nations and other representatives of Indigenous peoples in Canada offered to work with the government to address the concerns it had and to come to a solution, but that offer was refused,” National Chief Phil Fontaine said. “Canada prides itself as a protector of human rights. It is a member of the UN Human Rights Council, yet it is disappointing today to see this government vote against recognizing the basic rights of Canada’s First Peoples. This is a stain on the country’s international reputation.”
First Nations Chiefs and First Nations representatives invested an enormous amount of work into the Declaration over the last 30 years.
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.
Background information about the Declaration can be found on the website of IWGIA (International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs): http://www.iwgia.org/sw248.asp and in the Spring 2007 issue of Cultural Survival Voices.